By Vasyl Soloshchuk/ Insart
|Value proposition:||Provider of a client-profiling tool for advisors and their clients that enables household visualization for communication, sales and educational purposes.|
|The executive team:||H. Adam Holt, CEO and Founder
Adam Moskow, Board Member and Strategic & Operations Advisor
John DeVincent, Board Member
Tony Demark, CTO
Financial advice involves traditionally complex or obscure concepts and the necessity to track multiple financial decisions simultaneously, which is why clear visualization of the facts and structure is crucial. Asset-Map is designed to be a client household visualization of all of the facts that matter when making good financial decisions. It enables the advisor to construct a unique visualization that includes people and entities, income sources, current and expected assets, retirement assets, non-qualified assets, business interests, liabilities as well as assets that may come into play in the future, such as insurance policies. At the core of Asset-Map, it focuses on the advisor as the “engine of advice- not the algorithm”; therefore, they are trying to provide tech that facilitates human interaction, as opposed to technology that facilitates the decision or analytical capability.
To get more details about the company, we had an in-person interview with Adam Holt (CEO) in Asset-Map’s office in Philadelphia, which is located in the historical Philadelphia Bourse building- the first commodities exchange in the U.S.
Adam was primarily a designer, and he then moved to wealth management where he advised for the last 20 years. This extraordinary background—for a wealth-management person—led him to turn asset visualization around the other way:
“When I got into finance, I realized [that] the biggest challenge was that consumers did not necessarily understand the context under which advisors were providing guidance. […] I saw that [high-net-worth clients] really wanted summaries, and expected that we were doing a lot of the analytical work in the background. They wanted to focus on whether they were making good decisions at all times and not get stuck in the analytics.”
His idea was to focus on more of an educational and a conversational approach to earn more credibility and trust with clients and get them to take action much faster. The indication was that financial advisors needed to use a tool that would help them communicate with clients.
“The truth is that most advisors can communicate effectively with very simple tools. One is a piece of paper and a pen to communicate relationships visually, the other is a calculator. With these two things, an effective advisor can do 90% without the computer and robust technology.”
For these reasons, Adam decided to start the new project, which would NOT be a financial planning tool, a CRM, or a portfolio analytics instrument. Instead, he specifically focused on implementing a great visual framework that would be able to break the ice when acquiring new clients, or reviewing existing, and would also be valuable delivery for clients.
“I think the biggest revelation for Asset-Map is that most [of] its customers actually want the visual simplicity of their current financial state, but they’ve never seen it before, so they don’t know what it looks like or how to ask for it from their advisor.”
Asset-Map business model
Right now, Asset-Map has approximately 3,200 advisors using the platform—half of those are enterprise level and the other half are individual branded firms and advisors. Currently, 2% of Asset-Map’s customers are located outside of the US, and this number is expanding steadily. The platform itself has now cataloged over 300,000 households, representing the financial instruments of over $300 billion, and 75% of advisors are using it daily in their practices.
At the point of sale, the advisor needs to create an environment to facilitate discussion about what is going on. Asset-Map allows the advisor to click on a ‘box’ that represents a financial instrument and see the insight provided by those tools, at a point in time, and then easily go back to the big picture. The key is to help advisors stay zoomed out and get the detailed analysis only when necessary.
“We allow a direct-to-customer profiling process or connection with existing data structures, CRM portfolio, and financial planning. As a result, we don’t compete with all of these tools. We are a catalyst overlay that allows us to actually interpret those tools in a more effective manner.”
Asset-Map provides the capacity to tell somebody whether they are funded for their major goals. If they are not, it means that they do not have enough capital to cover it on an after-tax basis.
“We found that the Target-Maps have been an effective way to manage the conversation and to constantly track—like a GPS—how far away we are from something and, of course, how fast [we have to] drive [to] get there.”
The platform provides one single experience for both data entry and data presentation. The idea was that the user would have less to learn and would save time, and that the platform would be convenient in the meeting environment.
Integrations play an important role in the company. Asset-Map is integrated with Salesforce and Redtail on the CRM side, Orion and Riskalyze in the portfolio space, and is working on releasing MoneyGuidePro from the planning side through an open API. Adam says that they are actively seeking integration relationships and expanding visualizations to the other parties.
“We’ve been very specific [in] who we want to integrate with, with the idea that we can really complement what they do […] well in a visual format that advisors really appreciate and customers value when they receive it.”
The licensing model at Asset-Map is pay-per-advisor, with approximately 97% of advisors paying monthly and the rest annually. Typically, there are approximately 80 households per advisor.
Team structure and tech stack
The company consists of marketing, sales, customer success, and development teams, as well as an operational layer. Currently, they are actively expanding all of these roles with a very aggressive hiring strategy. The fastest-growing part of the business is customer success:
“We’re helping advisors actually communicate in a more human way with their customers, and teaching them ways to engage again is actually one of the biggest investments that we’ve made.”
Adam says that the company is structured entirely around the customer journey—the only way to put the customer first is to make every team ultimately accountable to the end consumer. Also, Adam says that they cultivate the idea of using the more modern tools, like remote presentations or digital screen presentations without paper (or minimal paper), which is really the way that business is going.
Outlining the roadmap
Early on in the establishment of the company it was up to Adam to outline the direction of Asset-Map. Today, there is a 50-person field advisory board covering different segments of the market and even tax and law professionals providing context on how they want to communicate with the customer when giving advice and guidance. This perspective is complemented by a product-management team, which also influences the roadmap and priorities.
Adam says that the company has a very open feedback and support center, as well as an app chat that receives and shares tips and feedback. Also, they track usage and click-through from Intercom and HubSpot.
“We get a lot of feedback from our customer service and customer success reps who are talking all day long to advisors, educating them and getting their feedback. We have hundreds of points of data validation on why we should build certain features.”
According to Adam, building something disruptive or unique in the financial services space has required them to make certain decisions about the product that customers have not asked for. A lot of their secret sauce comes down to the behavioral finance of decision making and how humans actually absorb information to the point where they do not become overwhelmed.
“Asset-Map is the thing that the customer has always wanted from their Advisor, but they don’t know how to ask for. In many ways, we’ve had to have the vision for an empathetic approach of what people really want without them knowing that they need it.”
Future plans and challenges
The plans for Asset-Map are very much populated with integrations. Like all fintech today, their peers have to address the UI and UX, ease of use, speed and integrations that the platforms can provide.
“Today, people are really competing for attention […] People are used to convenience and they want convenience over cost, especially in my marketplace. That’s what we’re focusing on.”
Adam says that they receive requests for a direct customer experience, a nonadvisor-based solution where the end customer can own their map.
“Engaging the customer directly is a big request [that] we have, and how we go about that is going to be, I think, really pivotal for where Asset-Map goes over the next five years.”
The company has some pretty strong opinions about the trends in data ownership, given cyber security requirements and concerns over who owns the data and who can see it.
“We’re going to move, as a global community, towards the concept of data independence and data ownership at the consumer level.”
One of the biggest challenges, according to Adam, is getting through the traditional compliance operations at large institutions that hold the key to access what advisors can actually implement in their process. Getting through the corporate procurement process is probably the biggest barrier to all advisor tech today. Another challenge is more specific, and is merely awareness of the tool. Most of their growth happened virally, Adam says, because other advisors shared and recommended their tool. Now they have a PR department and marketing team that is taking over the awareness process.
Asset-Map is a great UI tool to graphically show the financial structure of the household when a financial advisor discusses strategies with their clients. It can be useful both for acquiring new clients and building relations with an existing client base. Adam stated that his great vision is to make Asset-Map a common name that is associated with robust financial visualization in a split second. Let these ambitions prove the value and bring a renewed level of financial engagement and ownership to households world-wide.
Interviewed by Vasyl Soloshchuk, CEO and co-owner at INSART, FinTech & Java engineering company. Vasyl is also the author of WealthTech Club, which conducts research into Fortune and Startup Robo-advisor and Wealth Management companies in terms of the technology ecosystem.